Photo: Shutterstock/Christopher Penler
Casualty Litigation

Florida Passes Law for Permanent To-Go Alcoholic Beverages for Restaurants

Florida Passes Law for Permanent To-Go Alcoholic Beverages for Restaurants

For here? Or, to go? No, we are not talking about just your food, because thanks to Florida Senate Bill 148/House Bill 329 (“S.B. 148”), certain food service establishments will now be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages to go and for delivery permanently.  On May 13, 2021, at Houligan’s Spirited Sports Grille restaurant/bar in Ormond Beach, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill amending Florida Statute 561.20, otherwise known as the “Beverage Law,” allowing restaurants, who meet the qualifications, to include alcoholic beverages as part of take-out on a permanent basis.  S.B. 148, which passed 111-1, is an extension of what was already allowed under Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order signed last March, following the pandemic and thanks to the recent legislation, it is here to stay.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 was a hard year for the hospitality, leisure, and tourism industry, especially here in Florida.  Back in 2020, up to 33 states removed the ban on to-go alcohol sales to assist those businesses in need. Only two states allowed to-go alcohol sales pre-pandemic.  S.B. 148 is a bipartisan effort met with support from all over, including ride share companies, in an effort to revitalize the hospitality industry and economy.  Restaurants that allowed to-go alcohol sales credited the lift on the previous restriction as “lifesaving,” as restaurants were able to keep sales afloat amidst the pandemic.

S.B. 148, which goes into effect Thursday, July 1, 2021 at 12:01am, does not come without caveats.  The Bill lays out the following requirements for those restaurants seeking to offer to-go alcoholic beverages:

  • Sale of to-go drinks, both mixed and bottled, will cease when the restaurant stops serving food or at midnight, whichever comes first
  • Only persons over 21-years of age are allowed to deliver to-go drinks
  • Food must be ordered with the to-go beverage
  • Restaurants with special alcoholic-beverage licenses and that derive at least 51% of their revenue from food and nonalcoholic sales are allowed to offer the to-go option
  • Regular “quota” licenses restaurants must derive at least 60% of their revenue from food and nonalcoholic sales to offer the to-go option
  • Food service establishments serving to-go drinks must seal the container and provide a receipt attached or in the bag
  • While being transported, the sealed alcoholic beverage must be put in either the trunk, locked glove box, container, or upright behind the driver’s seat

Along with to-go alcohol, customers may now also take home a partially opened/consumed bottle of wine; however, the restaurant staff must seal the bottle and provide a receipt of purchase attached to it.  Likewise, caterers are also considered in this Bill, and they too, can sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises of the event as long as they prominently display their license to do so.  Any alcoholic beverages not used at the event must remain with the customer. 

The pandemic has forced almost all industries to adapt; the hospitality industry is no different.  The new change to the law comes with positive support as restaurateurs hope that with vaccine rates rising, more people will be eager to return to old ways of dining in, while still allowing an option for those who are still not comfortable with higher crowd levels.  In any event, restaurant owners should check with their liability carriers regarding coverage for this extended service.  Finally, restaurateurs should encourage strong employee training regarding the new law and its procedures.